Politics of Business Career Path
Political Science prepares you for a career in business by teaching you the fundamentals of political economy and helping you to understand power and authority in organizations of all sorts.This is essential for understanding how politics and culture shape business and economic-policy debates, both in the U.S. and abroad. We’ll also give you the concrete skills you need to succeed; analyzing data, using information to understand and solve problems, debating ideas, and making clear arguments.
PS Majors may be awarded up to two Career Path Certificates of Completion upon graduation. For a Certificate of Completion, a student must complete the Career Path gateway course and four upper division course from the path course list. Find details at polisci.uoregon.edu/career-path.
- Declare PS as your Major and pick your Career Path.
- Current PS Majors may also complete the declaration form
- Get started in the gateway course: PS 210 Politics of Business
- Enroll in upper division courses from the Politics of Business Course List
- Develop skills in 300-level courses
- Refine skills in 400-level courses
- Check-in with an Academic Advisor to be sure you meet PS major and university requirements along the way. Discuss how you can receive PS credit for an internship and consider working toward graduating with PS Honors.
Success stories: where PS degrees have taken our alums
David Taxer is co-owner of Portland Benefits Group, a health and life insurance agency that operates across 43 states. Working his way up from an entry-level call center insurance job, he built a business that now sells roughly $30 million in annual premiums.
David grew up in Washington County, Oregon and came to UO with interests in studying law. In the political science major, though, he gained a variety of skills that put him on track to become an entrepreneur. “Thanks to Prof. Mikhail Myagkov, I developed a strong interest in game theory,” he says. “I’ve used that knowledge to help plan strategy and processes within my business as well as to model my competitors.” This training laid foundations for developing sophisticated expertise with search engines to which he credits much of his later success. Classes in law and politics with John Davidson taught him how to think and present arguments carefully, and “greatly impacted how I respond and handle the difficult conversations one must have both in sales, marketing, and as the CEO of a growing business.” Volunteering for Congressman Peter Defazio’s campaign taught him phone-banking and marketing skills that led directly into his career.
Taxer recommends that students who want to become entrepreneurs should consider a major in political science supported by other courses in economics, psychology, and marketing. This recipe worked for him in health and insurance, and should work in other sectors as well. “As a whole,” he says, political science prepared me to be highly adaptable and profitable in a rapidly changing market undergoing upheaval due to politically motivated legislation.”
After graduating from UO in 2009, Political Science Major Zack Geary returned to his native McMinnville, Oregon, to look for jobs. Zack quickly immersed himself in McMinnville’s business and civic life. In addition to working full time as a Project Manager for Cellar Ridge Construction (a pioneer in green building), Zack serves on the Board of Directors for the McMinnville Downtown Association, the Board of Directors for the Yamhill Enrichment Society, and the Yamhill County Parks and Recreation Board of Directors. Zack is also the President of the McMinnville City Club.
When Geary came to UO, he chose to study political science because he liked reading about politics and history and was fascinated with U.S. presidents and the American political system. “Between history and political science, I found political science more of a practical degree for what I wanted to do,” says Geary. “I always worked well with people and wanted to be involved with political life, so it seemed like a natural fit for me.”
While the relevance of political science to a career in construction may not be obvious, Geary says many of the skills he got as a political science major are important not only to his job but also to his role as a member of the McMinnville community. When it comes to success in both areas, Geary says, “I don’t think you can over-emphasize the importance of critical thinking, and political science really drives it home.” Particularly important (and interesting) to Geary, was the way political science taught him to analyze power and influence. “To be able to look at these issues – whether it be with private companies or a mix of public and private – and see how these applied to my daily life, this was really interesting. It helped me think about and see how people can work together…both business wise, as a construction company working with clients, but also volunteering and being involved with all sorts of people in the business world.”
In fact, Geary’s interest in civic engagement and local politics helped him find a job in the business sector. After graduating from UO, Zack volunteered on the re-election campaign of Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Stern. Through the campaign, Geary met John Mead, the founder of Cellar Ridge Construction. This experience illustrates how Geary’s political science education gave him what he calls “the intangibles of what it takes to be successful in a job, especially in a small town.” Particularly important was “knowing how to effectively network—and not networking just to sell widgets, but to establish yourself as a person in the community – to work both for a company and a community.”
Leslie Miller’s studies in political science at UO led her into global marketing, currently as Marketing Manager for Europe and the Middle East at the IT consulting company Bluewolf. “My PS career helped me prepare for my career because I had to learn how to receive and digest information and then discuss it in my own words,” she writes. “This has helped me in Public Relations, Event Planning, and Marketing because you are often taking an idea proposed by someone else and turning it into your own personal project. You need to stay on brand but be able to have your personality reflect the final project as well.”
Leslie grew up near San Francisco with Duck alumni in her family, and was “a Duck fan for as long as I can remember.” With a father who worked as a city manager in the Bay Area, she was curious about government and policy, and found that political science opened up the world of complex organizations to her. The multifaceted nature of political-science courses taught her “to adapt to all sorts of changes (whether large or small). Deadlines change, strategic plans change, information changes, and so on, but being able to move forward with these changes will allow you to be successful.”
Now a Vice President at a firm that develops stem-cell treatments for ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases, Mary Kay Turner built on skills from her political-science degree to forge a successful career in the government-affairs side of the pharmaceutical industry. “All industries have a government affairs function,” she writes. “I would encourage students to explore industries they are interested in, and to find out what public policy issues they face and possible solutions. Find a way into a company in the industry of their choice, be willing to learn about it from the ground up and then, find a way into the government affairs function.”
Mary Kay grew up in Butte, Montana and first fell in love with UO when visiting for a football game. While at UO she benefited from strong mentorship: “Like many college students, I lacked confidence, and the mentors I chose helped me through those times of self-doubt.” Then the sky was the limit. After interning at the Oregon State legislature as a senior, she first planned to attend law school, but then took a job in sales with Bristol-Myers Squibb. Over 26 years she rose through the ranks to eventually head the Government Affairs and Advocacy team of this major pharmaceutical company. “I worked in many disease areas and watched them transform from fatal diseases to chronic ones, including HIV/AIDS and many forms of cancer. My team and I worked together with patient advocacy organizations to ensure heath policy encouraged rather than impeded innovation. This is where my political science education served as a foundation for my career.”